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|Behind the Walls|
Air. Water. Earth. Fire.
After a long, fulfilled and yet exhausting life, Avatar Korra passed, being succeeded by Sari of the Earth Kingdom, who died early and almost didn't play a role in history.
The current Avatar is Asura of the Fire Nation, who mastered the elements quickly.
Although she thought she would never play an important role in history, she was proven wrong when the black ships arrived. The first one came in peace, but all the following carried a deadly cargo: WAR.
A war even the Avatar and her allies can barely end.
But the question is: Will there still be a world to save?
Previously on Avatar: The War of the Worlds
As both, the Fourth Reich and the Fire Nation, attack Republic City, besiege and later take the metropolis of ruins, the Earth Kingdom sends help to the collapsing United Republic, as the Fire Nation escalates the war.
There is no War in Ba Sing Se
The twenty-three year old Earth Kingdom princess, Shen-Lin, sat in her chair in the palace's inner chambers, reading the troop reports which laid atop her desk in front of her. " ...Fire Nation Navy ships sighted in the Western Lake... sunk by Water Tribe submarines...", she read aloud, before taking the next one and again reading aloud, "Omashu bombed by artillery of the sixth army... 501st battalion fending off a frontal assault on the city... "
After an hour of reading more, she turned up the lights and took the last one of the reports, as every time before, reading aloud, "TOP SECRET-... Wait... Dai Li squad spotted in Lower Ring, district 469... ...What? The Dai Li? Oh damn... Wait, there's more! ...connection between the 501st and the Dai Li proven... ...Oh damn... "
The bendingless princess rushed through the palace to the throne room, where her father, who was, alike her brother, a master bender, spent most his time deciding the Earth Kingdom's army next move alongside the council of five. On the way there, her four years older brother, Crown Prince Rong, encountered her with the mocking words, "What do we here? Shouldn't you be asleep by now?"
She just shot him a murderous look without dealing with him further. He saw the army report in her left hand, and shot a rock glove to her neck to stop her from telling their father, Earth King Ruyi, about the 501st and the Dai Li. The rock glove grabbed Shen-Lin by her neck, commanded by Rong to almost break one of her vertebrae. He clenched his fist, which caused the parts of the rock glove to move tighter. Shen-Lin barely could take a breath as her brother asked, "You will not tell father about the 501st and the Dai Li. Remember: There is no war in Ba Sing Se, there never was and there will never be. Understood?"
She nodded, or at least desperately tried to do so, before her brother released her. She bumped on the ground like if she was dead, and got up before her father, who could be heard nearing, could see her like this. The Earth King turned around a corner and saw the two of his children standing there, his daughter holding a few sheets of paper, on which was written in Military Script, assuming it was a troop report which she wanted to ask him something about. "What did you want to ask me about the report... about... the Dai Li?"
Rong looked at his father with a murderous expression, threatening to throw his rock glove at his sister again, this time without having mercy. She herself gestured to Ruyi that he should leave, which he did. After he was gone, Rong grabbed the report and went to burn it in his room. She herself went back to her room as well, where she put on a disguise s nobody could recognize her, which simply was a plainly green coat and a cloth covering her mouth and nose. She then went to the palace's wall, where she displayed her great agility by climbing the century-old wall up and down within just a minute. She then went to the monorail, to go outside the inner ring, to the 501st' headquarters'. Their base was just outside the Inner Ring, just by the monorail's rail track. At the sight of it, she prepared herself to jump off the train's roof, where she had hid herself and to be ready to get off the earthen vehicle whenever she wanted. So she jumped onto the rail track and walked to its edge, where she grabbed on and climbed down with ease on the column. As she had reached the ground again, the heavy part of her operation began. She had to get into the battalion's camp without being noticed, which was the easier part of it, as getting out unnoticed would be much harder. She hid in one of the trenches surrounding the camp, the green of her coat becoming one with the green of the grass nearby. One of the battalion's elite metalbenders, who were trained to be able to even stop a bullet mid-air, moved around the wall's corner with a flashlight, only looking on the ground in front of him. Shen-Lin saw her chance and ran as if the entire Fire Nation army was trying to get her, before climbing up the wall equally fast and the simply jumping onto the next barrack's roof to intercept the village-like camp outside the Inner Ring. She crawled until reaching its end, from where she was facing the small square in the encampment's centre, where she could see around a dozen of people talking at the flag pole's base. She took binoculars out of her coat and intercepted the small group by the flag pole, where she could see half a dozen of Dai Li agents, their leader covering his identity the same way like Shen-Lin was doing now. The leader of the 501st was - obviously - negotiating with the cloaked Dai Li leader, who stood there barefoot, despite the fact it already was winter. The latter seemed to have sensed Shen-Lin at the top of the earthbent barrack and now was turning into her direction, walking slowly not to make it too obvious. She spotted him early and sped off into the direction she came from. Soon enough, rock gloves and the battalion's special metal bullets were soaring into the Princess' direction, who evaded them, before jumping over the camp's wall and landing as soft as it could be for a nonbender like her. Hearing the noises the Dai Li agents and the soldiers made searching for her, she ran off to the rail track's column, which she climbed up in the darkness surrounding her. As the next monorail was coming her direction, she jumped on and climbed onto its roof again to get through the Lower and Middle Rings undetected. However, the pursuit wasn't over, as she could see the Dai Li's head jumping on the track alongside six of his agents, who apparently accelerated, while the earthbenders who powered the vehicle stopped immediately, fearing consequences of the de facto-rulers of the mighty city. The train didn't stop as the earthbenders did, and as the Dai Li pursued the Princess, she got up and surprisingly held two throwing knives in her hands, striking two agents with them, which, besides the element of surprise, showed no greater effect on the two agents. She got two more from her sleeves, which she soon had to use against the Head of the Dai Li, whose bending style, which included to leave no trace behind, seemed familiar to her. She evaded every of the rock gloves thrown at her, by slipping under the thrower and later trying to bring him down by stabbing him into his lower leg, as one of the agents ordered, "Get the freakin' train moving again!"
The duel continued as Shen-Lin seemed to get the upper hand, which soon turned against her, as the secret police's leader grabbed her wrist to bring her down. He now shot his right rock glove at her throat, lifting her into the air as she was choking, before pulling her close to him, when he said, "I knew you would come 'round, sister... "
She, fearing her life, took the one throwing knife she had left and stabbed her brother into the stomach, which caused her to fall, as his grip on the glove was lost, and eventually causing her to escape into the Lower Ring the same way she did before she got into the 501st' headquarters. She tried to blend in into the crowd that was crawling through the streets despite the curfew. She soon was stopped by a Dai Li patrol, which arrested her without taking a second look. As she was dragged along through the crowd of bystanders, the only thing she heard was the agents saying the famous sentence, "There is no war in Ba Sing Se."
Here, we are safe. Here, we are free.
The duo threw her into a box which was positioned atop the back of an armoured lorry, which was made of oak wood, whose thickness was about one-hundred millimetres so no earthbender could escape without being noticed by the two agents steering the heavy vehicle. The patrol seemed to be in such a hurry they didn't manage to disarm her in the time they had had.
"The Dai Li are getting sloppy these days... ", Shen-Lin said, pulling out another of her knives. She slammed it against the lock, which she didn't expect to have any effect from the inside. She scanned the wooden walls for weaknesses, which she found in form of a - as the rest of the box, wooden - bars, which were installed to provide the captive with enough air to survive. She searched in her coat's bags and found what she had been looking for: a small saw. She leapt up to one of the bars, holding herself on it and sawing through another one. After she had completed to do so with one, she repeated with a few others and then broke the part she had divided from the rest of the wooden box out and with two leaps, she was in the midst of the Lower Ring, the best civilised place to hide anyone could imagine. She hid her saw again and walked off into the crowd, unnoticed by the Dai Li. However, she thought she had not been noticed until her brother landed just in front of her, two of his agents behind her. With their rock gloves they forced her to knee before her brother.
"Remember sister: There is no war in Ba Sing Se. Here, we are safe. Here, we are free."
She couldn't help but chuckle at the irony, which caused her brother to shoot another glove at her throat in order to almost kill her. Just as he did so, one lorry as before drove through the crowd behind him, escorted by four armoured cars of the 501st battalion. Making sure she was disarmed, her brother threw her into the wooden cage, hurting her head. The convoy drove off to the Outer Ring, where the Dai Li headquarters were, the de facto centre of all operations in Ba Sing Se. She thought of an escape plan, something she would definitely need now in order to get out of her brother's grip. Again and again, she thought of any possibility.
"If I want to make it, I need to make it when they unload me... or when they transfer me to my cell... "
The Dai Li seemed to be in a hurry to get Shen-Lin as a witness, as it took them only one hour for a route for which an ordinary (public) transport would have needed four hours. The small convoy stopped and the Dai Li agents who had hopped on the armoured cars jumped off and transferred the vehicles underground via earthbending.
"Well, that might complicate things... ", the captured princess managed to chuckle, as the light became more and more green the further they descended into the ground. She again scanned the box for weaknesses and soon found a fatal one: she wasn't handcuffed. As a duo of agents walked up and opened the wooden door, she leapt forward, striking one agent with her foot, choking the other one to unconsciousness, which drew much of the attention to her, more than even before. The four machine gun turrets, belonging to the armoured cars, aimed their weapons at her and fired mercilessly. She evaded the dull weapons' bullets with ease, sprinting towards the only exit, which was the way she had come in. Every present being directed their attacks at her, but as soon as she had got her mightiest and favourite weapon, a katana which she hadn't used because of its conspicuity, again, she wasn't to be stopped, not even by her brother, catching everyone by surprise. Gaining it again alongside her knives, she was almost invincible. She destroyed rock glove after rock glove, evaded bullets and earth pillars then and now before giving her brother a cut on his right cheek and climbing up the twenty-metres deep hole on its walls, using her knives as picks. After a dangerous ascend of five minutes under heavy earthbending bombardment, she had to do the last part of her escape: the huge closing, earthbending powered porthole atop the vertical corridor she just had climbed up. She took the knives out of the wall, threw them at one of the two halves of the cover, leaped off into its direction, hung on the small metal object, before swinging herself out just before the clash of the two halves. She looked around and recognized her and the Dai Li headquarters' position: beneath Lake Laogai.
"These guys just don't learn from mistakes... ", she muttered, walking off in direction of the huge wall that separated the Inner and the Outer Rings. She stopped shortly to pull her coat on properly again before she began to storm through the Agrarian Zone.
At one of the many gates of the monorail system to the Lower Ring, she climbed on the next train's roof, getting off on the other side again and continuing to walk slowly again, so she wasn't drawing too much attention. She had observed, if not even studied the way of life in the greatest slum in the world, if not even in the entire galaxy, called the Lower Ring. She looked into the small wallet which was located somewhere in the infinity of her coat and found mere fifty copper pieces.
"Time to get a job... But first: an alias... ", she thought aloud, without being heard by anyone. She stumbled through the streets, soon realizing that if she had to stay longer, she wouldn't get a real home, every possibly habitable place was already occupied by huts, some wooden, some earthbent, others built from the debris of destroyed buildings. As she looked around, she saw horrifying examples of how living here was like, for example a family with nine members, living in a hut of the size of an average car here in Ba Sing Se. However, this was before the city-wide installed sirens rang off. Soon thereafter, dozens of Fire Nation bombers could be spotted in the sky, unleashing their cargo's fiery nature on the Lower Ring, before the first ones were shot down by AA-guns and specially trained earthbenders. Shen-Lin walked further nonetheless, before a bomb struck the house in front of her, pulverizing it and setting the surroundings on fire. She herself was struck down by the shock wave and barely had survived it, being severely burnt and hit by debris. She saw people burning, people running, she heard more and more homes being destroyed, however, before her vision, as well as her other senses, faded.
The groans of those for whom was no hope left, the cries of the injured, and the shouts of the doctors could be heard as she awoke again after the bomb raid, still in her - now partially burned - coat, lying in a blood-stained originally white hospital bed. She tried to sit up, but found the immense pain in her entire body hindering her, injuries that would leave huge scars as a reminder of her foolishness. As a doctor walked up, she managed to raise into a seating position, despite her severely burnt, and now bandaged, arms.
"We could remove every piece of debris that had entered your skin, but your burns will leave scars... However, before we could do anything, we had to remove your weaponry and there's a thing I wanted to ask you... first, your name, and second... Because of the weaponry you carry... Are you a Kyoshi Warrior or something?", the doctor spoke as a matter of fact.
"Well, my name... ", she thought of a good alias, before continuing, "I'm Noki... And I was more or less trained by the Kyoshi Warriors, but I didn't find a job... "
The doctor nodded understandingly and ordered Noki to get to the waiting room to make space for other wounded of the first attack at Ba Sing Se in two centuries. She was given two long sticks for free which she had to use as crutches due to the shortage of ordinary ones. She hobbled out of the huge building in the Lower Ring, next to which an AA-gun emplacement was. She thought through every recent event she had been through and noticed several trivial things, like it was de facto illegal to carry weapons in public, but in the Lower Ring nobody seemed to care. She walked up to a soldier by one of the five guns placed there and asked, "May I participate in the defence of Ba Sing Se? I know how to... don't know, for example... How to fire a quadruple twenty-millimetres AA-gun."
The low-ranked officer looked at her, startled by the sudden approach, answering, "Well, I believe we could always need a gunner... Despite the fact you're currently more or less disabled to do so... "
The Earth Kingdom Princess smiled. She no longer was the royal nonbender she used to be, she now was an almost-Kyoshi Warrior, which, in fact, was true, and an AA-gunner in the Lower Ring. The trace by which her brother and his secret police could have followed her had been covered by blood, ashes and debris after the bombardment. She had started anew. Incognito.
Notes and Trivia
- The 501st battalion is a reference to the 501st Legion in Star Wars, which was a unit, initially of the Clone Army, responsible for the downfall of the Jedi (later known as Vader's Fist).
- The 101st division is a reference to the 101st US Airborne Division, which was, alongside the 6th British Airborne Division, playing a great part in Operation Overlord.
- Noki is a name which is going to be the one of a major character in my second planned fanon, The Red Lotus Rebels.
For the collective works of the author, go here.